Perhaps you visited Mexico or Canada and traded your US dollars for pesos or Canadian dollars. Maybe you flew from England to Japan and traded your pound sterling for yen. If that’s the case, you’ve seen exchange rates in reality. But do you know how they work?
“The dollar dropped against the rupee today,” you’ve probably heard the financial reporter on the evening news say. But do you have any idea what that means? We’ll clarify what exchange rates are in this article and some of the factors that can influence the value of the currency in different countries.
The Forex (FX) market is the world’s largest marketplace for forex trading. It is decentralized – in other words, it does not operate in one particular place as stock exchanges do. The Forex market is accessed by someone who buys or sells a specific currency. So, if you’re sending your income or pension from the UK to Switzerland, you’ll be exchanging your pounds for Swiss francs on the Forex market.
Of course, expats are far from the only people who need to exchange currency. International trade requires the regular spending of billions of dollars in foreign currencies for both large and small businesses. Banks, too, operate on a global scale, transacting massive amounts of money daily. Because of these factors, the Forex market is the largest globally, with daily trades reaching $5 trillion.
Forex traders benefit from the fluctuating exchange rates. They buy a currency that they believe will improve in the near future, and if successful, they sell it when it is worth more. Traders who can correctly predict economic events and how they affect currency prices are the best.
The Forex market operates 24 hours a day and five days a week. It is open 24 hours because it is always a day somewhere in the world. The forex market is closed only on weekends. But it is still possible to exchange currencies on the weekend.
National currencies are critical to the functioning of modern economies. They allow us to convey the value of an item consistently across national boundaries, oceans, and cultures. Since one country’s currency isn’t always accepted in another, we need exchange rates. You can’t buy a loaf of bread with Swiss francs in India. You’d have to first go to a bank and exchange your Swiss francs for INR. The cost of one currency in another currency is referred to as an exchange rate.
You can express that exchange rate as:
1CHF = 78 INR
There are two central systems used to determine a currency’s exchange rate: floating and pegged currencies.
The market determines a floating exchange rate. In other words, the value of a currency is determined by how much consumers are willing to pay for it. Supply and demand, in turn, are influenced by foreign investment, import/export ratios, inflation, and a variety of other economic factors. A floating system is typically used by countries with mature, stable economic markets. This scheme is used by almost every major country, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Since the market would immediately correct the rate to represent inflation and other economic factors, floating exchange rates are more efficient.
However, the floating system isn’t perfect, though. A floating system can deter investment if a country’s economy is unstable. Wild swings in exchange rates, as well as catastrophic inflation, could ruin investors.
It is also known as a fixed system. In this system, the government artificially maintains the exchange rate and sets it. The rate would be tied to the currency of another nation, usually the US dollar. The rate will not fluctuate from day to day. To keep their pegged rate stable, the government must work hard. To manage supply and demand, their central bank must maintain significant foreign currency reserves. If a currency’s exchange rate rises unexpectedly, the central bank must release enough currency into the market to satisfy the demand. They can also buy currency if demand is insufficient and exchange rates are falling.
Pegged systems are commonly used by countries with immature, potentially unstable economies. Developing countries can use this system to avoid out-of-control inflation. However, if the pegged rate does not represent the currency’s real-world market value, the system may backfire. In that case, a black market may emerge, where the currency is exchanged at market value rather than the government’s peg.
People may rush to exchange their money for other, more stable currencies when they realize their currency isn’t worth as much as the pegged rate indicates. This could result in economic catastrophe, as the sudden influx of currency on global markets causes the exchange rate to fall. As a result, if a country fails to maintain its pegged rate, it can find itself with worthless currency.
Only a few exchange rate systems are completely floating or fully pegged. Using a floating peg, countries that use a pegged rate will prevent market panics and inflationary disasters. They fix their exchange rate to the US dollar, which does not fluctuate from day to day. On the other hand, the government reviews its peg regularly and makes minor changes to keep it in line with actual market value.
Floating systems aren’t entirely at the mercy of market forces. Governments that use floating exchange rates allow changes to their national economic policies to directly or indirectly impact exchange rates. Even though the value of a nation’s currency technically floats, tax cuts, changes in the national interest rate and import tariffs can all affect its value.
Remember that the next time you cross a border and exchange your money for another country, global economic forces influenced the exchange rate. In reality, when you exchange currencies, you become part of those economic forces, helping to determine the exchange rate.
While this system works well in most situations, it is not always the best choice.